Vietnam War documentary previews in Fayetteville, premieres tonight
Silence fell across a crowded room at the Fayetteville Public Library as the lights went out and a screen lit…
Silence fell across a crowded room at the Fayetteville Public Library as the lights went out and a screen lit up with the words “The Vietnam War” on Saturday afternoon.
After the 63-minute preview, the last of of 13 showings across the state, remained silent until KUAF news director and moderator Kyle Kellams broke the silence and introduced the four-person panel.
The Vietnam War was directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
• Starting 7 p.m. today on AETN
• 10 parts and 18 hours in total
• First five episodes will air today-Thursday
• Final five episodes will air Sept. 24-28.
Source: Staff report
“There’s a lot to digest,” said Jim Hale, panelist and a Vietnam War veteran who lives in Fayetteville and said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by the Iraq war. “I’m hoping this series will help a lot of us.”
The 10-part documentary features nearly 100 witnesses, including Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese soldiers and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. The preview revealed a select few of these witnesses, but gave a taste for the range of emotions and opinions in the feature production, which has been 10 years in the making.
Those who attended the screening also saw clips of rarely seen, digitally remastered archival footage of the war.
“The war was in every American living room,” said attendee Ray Jones, a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army in Arkansas. “The general public formed an opinion on not just the war but of the warrior and had a difficult time separating the two.”
The series also contains photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, home movies, and recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations, according to an AETN news release.
“I think its going to be an interesting depiction. Its hard to tell,” said Lee Allum, a Vietnam-era Air Force pilot. “One thing I liked liked about it was the North Vietnamese side.”
Over 58,000 American soldiers died in the Vietnam war. Among them were 592 from the Natural State, according to the National Archives.
An overarching theme of the preview was the silence surrounding the war since it ended. “It’s like having an alcoholic father. No one talks about it,” one interviewee in the documentary said. The panel discussed how accurate that analogy was.
“Even though there was misguided leadership, the soldiers were honorable. But we were faced with a situation unlike any other we’ve ever been in,” Hale said. “There were many self-defeating policies. In the end, politicians found a way to avoid the blame and it feels like the veterans were left holding the bag.
“I’m hoping that this series starts a lot of conversations. There a lot of hurt within families of those who fought, and there’s a lot of feelings that have not been expressed.”
AETN is also collecting Arkansan Vietnam veterans’ stories and photos of those who died in the war. The 13 previews have prompted many to share their stories in person and via social media, said Dan Koops, AETN outreach director.
“It’s been incredible as far as the stories we’ve heard,” Koops said.
The story and photo collection is part of the network’s state initiative called “AETN Salutes Arkansas Vietnam Veterans.” The public can share stories through social media with #VietnamStoriesPBS or at aetn.org/thevietnamwar.
Panelist Preston Jones is Vietnam War scholar and history professor at John Brown University in Siloam Springs. He has worked to collect some of these stories.
“It’s about the personal, human element,” Jones said.
Hale is working on a book called Casualties of Peace and said he hopes other veterans can find similar therapeutic ways to share what happened to them.
“It helps formulate everything that’s happened. It’s all in there: all my reactions all my feelings,” he said. “It’s a good time to get these conversations started.”
Retired Col. Karen Lloyd is the director of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and was the keynote speaker as well as a panelist Saturday. So far, they have about 104,000 stories in the collection, 1,200 from Arkansan veterans, she said.
She said it’s also about those in younger generations understanding what happened and creating a new connection and empathy toward those veterans they now.
“It is my hope that this film makes waves across the nation and it will inspire veterans, specifically from the Vietnam War, to sit down with loved ones and tell their story. Just get that one story,” Lloyd said. “I encourage every Vietnam veteran to unload themselves of their untold story they’ve been carrying for five decades.”
AETN is also producing local programs in conjunction with the series premiere, including “Arkansans Ask: Veterans History Project” and “Barnes and … A Conversation With Col. Karen Lloyd.”
Each Thursday night following regularly scheduled programs at 8 and 9 p.m., AETN will air short videos produced to complement The Vietnam War, according to the news release. Anyone looking for information, like educational resources or ways to get involved with these initiatives, can go to aetn.org/thevietnamwar.
NW News on 09/17/2017
Source: NWA Online Northwest Arkansas News Vietnam War documentary previews in Fayetteville, premieres tonight